Welcome to our review of 2020
2020 has been an exceptional year, one with many unpredicted and unprecedented events.
The stories highlighted below demonstrate that the world-leading art and design thinking, intuition, innovation and outside-of-the-box experimentation which defines our RCA community has remained as strong as ever this year.
- The Computer Science Research Centre was established to explore areas including robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and advanced visualisation and simulation.
- Eight RCA graduate start-ups were selected for InnovationRCA’s start-up incubation programme, each tackling a pressing issue or social challenge.
- Students and graduates showcased their digital skills and creative approaches through hands-on sessions at Apple Covent Garden and Regent Street.
- A two-day conference organised by the MA Writing and the Performance pathway of the MA Contemporary Art Practice brought together practitioners in live art, performance, dance and the visual arts to consider writing and performance.
- The RCA was ranked the number 1 university for art and design internationally for the sixth consecutive year according to the QS World University Rankings by subject.
- The RCA work-in-progress exhibitions took place across all three campuses, and the Winter Convocation took place at the Royal Geographic Society, with honorary doctorates awarded to RCA alumni Bridget Riley, Frank Bowling and Asif Kapadia.
- Supported by Logitech and CERN IdeaSquare, 400 students from across the School of Design worked together on the Grand Challenge 2020.
- Diverse topics, from the climate crisis to cultural heritage, spirituality and the virtualities of storytelling itself were explored in the Digital Direction graduate exhibition.
- MA City Design students took part in a week-long symposium at MPavilion, Australia’s leading architecture commission and cultural laboratory in Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne.
- An independent report by Beauhurst and Parkwalk Advisors concluded that InnovationRCA came third in terms of number of deals secured by its spin-outs in 2019, behind only Oxford and Cambridge universities.
- Dr Jiayu Wu, Senior Research Fellow in the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, was awarded a £55k Design Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a systematic review of UK university-led design driven research into mobility innovation.
- Hidden 2020 showcased work from over 80 of our technical and non-academic staff revealing the passion and talent across the College.
- Limen, a work by Ceramics & Glass Tutor Dr Heike Brachlow (PhD Ceramics & Glass, 2012, MA 2006) became part of the V&A’s world-leading collection.
- The College rapidly adapted to Covid-19, with staff and students working remotely and teaching online, while designers and artists from the wider RCA community adapted their skills to help meet the unprecedented demands of the pandemic. The College launched the RCA Emergency Fund (Back on Track) to help mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 faced by RCA students.
- Helene Steiner (MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2015) and a team of researchers from OpenCell developed a low-cost Covid-19 testing laboratory, which is now being put to use in Jersey.
- MA Design Products alumnus, Milo Mcloghlin-Greening worked with teams at healthcare design studio Cellule and 3D printing facility Batch.works to design and produce over 11,000 Batch.Shields for COVID-19 front line workers.
- An online festival, 302_Redirect, showcased the work of MA Contemporary Art Practice students amidst the newly pressing and uncertain, techno-centric art world.
- MA Intelligent Mobility launched their graduate projects online, asking critical questions about the future of travel and mobility.
- RCA Chancellor Sir Jony Ive kicked-off a series of online talks embracing new opportunities for online learning. The series included RCA Alumnus and Land Rover Chief Creative Officer, Professor Gerry McGovern OBE, oscar-winning film director Asif Kapadia and CEO of Off-White™ and Artistic Director Louis Vuitton Men's, Virgil Abloh.
- A research project in collaboration with Thammasat University, Thailand, received a second portion of funding from the RCA’s quality-related (QR) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) development fund.
- Current PhD student, Yu Lun Eve Lin’s book The Practice of Fashion Drawing became one of Taiwan’s national textbooks for fashion.
- The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) announced the establishment of the Design Age Institute.
- MA Curating Contemporary Art (CCA) graduating students presented projects online in collaboration with leading UK-based art organisations.
- In partnership with the BT Archives, MRes RCA: Communication Design students created an online publication exploring the future of telecommunication in the age of the pandemic.
- The Intelligent Mobility Design Centre held an online, cross-College research symposium with speakers from the RCA as well as TfL, University of Cambridge and The University of Tokyo.
- Photography student Ioanna Sakellaraki won Student Photographer of the Year 2020 in the Sony World Photography Awards.
- RCA2020 showcased the work of 836 graduates from across our four Schools to a global audience.
- Degrees were conferred on 826 Master’s, 65 Graduate Diploma, 26 Doctoral, 6 MRes, 7 PgDip, 3 MPhil, and 2 PgCert students.
- The topping out of our New Battersea Campus designed by Herzog & de Meuron was celebrated with a drone fly through.
- Students from the MA Writing programme relaunched ARC, a student led publication with a 50 year history at the College, with an online edition ARC: The Dirty Issue.
- Danielle Elsener’s (MA Fashion, 2020) graduate project was awarded a €50,000 grant as winner of the Evian Activate Movement grant for sustainable design.
- The 2020 Pokémon Scholars were announced.
- Four Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) students won the 2020 Mayor’s Entrepreneur Environment Award as well as the National James Dyson Award for The Tyre Collective, an innovation that began life as a group project at the RCA.
- The RCA presented (Un)finished - a showcase of selected work by RCA 2020 MA Design Products graduates at the London Design Festival.
- Current RCA Painting student Sabrina Shah won the £10,000 Castlegate Art Prize with a painting about consumerism, expulsion, ingestion and the freedom and courage to act, think and respond.
- Two RCA & Imperial College MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering students launched virtual workout start-up Quell.
- Shawn Adams, who graduated from MA Architecture this year won the prestigious Architects' Journal (AJ) Post-Graduate Student Prize, 2020.
- Tenant of Culture (the artistic practice of Hendrickje Schimmel, MA Textiles, 2016) was the recipient of the 2020 Camden Art Centre Emerging Artist Prize with Frieze and current MA Textiles student Ganit Goldstein was awarded the Re-FREAM EU Horizon 2020 Grant for her Project WeAreAble.
- RCA alumnus Frank Bowling OBE RA was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to Art and RCA alumnus Sir David Adjaye won the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
- The five winners of the Helen Hamlyn Design Awards 2020 were announced across the themes of disability, diversity, inclusion, technology and creativity.
- Black History Online curated by current MA Curating Contemporary Art student, David Lisbon launched as part of the RCA Student's Union's Black History Month programme.
- InnovationRCA start-up Orbel Health’s award-winning wearable hand sanitiser device The Orbel™ helped keep healthcare workers and NFL players safe.
- A consortium led by the RCA was awarded £5.4m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to establish the Textiles Circularity Centre.
- Five new graduate start-ups joined InnovationRCA’s high-growth start-up incubation programme.
- 10 RCA Alumni were featured in the Beazley Designs of the Year 2020.
- RCA alumnus Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize 2020.
- The RCA and Serendipity Art Foundation, in Delhi, India launched an arts-hackathon.
- The RCA’s annual Christmas Fête, hosted by the RCA Students' Union, offered unique presents and hand-crafted gifts directly from our artists and designers via Instagram.
Find out more about what goes on at the RCA during our online Work in Progress show in January 2021.